Etiquette of Itikaaf

Narrated `Abdullah bin `Umar: Rasoolullah  used to practice I`tikaf in the last ten days of the month of Ramadan. [Bukhari]

Narrated `Aisha Siddiqa (wife of the Prophet) Rasoolullah used to do I`tikaf in the last ten days of Ramadan till he died and then his wives used to do I`tikaf after him. [Bukhari]

I’tikaf is an established and very important Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ and those who do it are truly blessed. However, there are some important rules to learn and follow if we want our I’tikaf to be beneficial for us. They are:

  1. Niyyah: The purpose of I’tikaf is to connect with Allahﷻ by secluding ourselves in the house of Allahﷻ as His guests and focusing exclusively on Dhikr, Salah, reading Qur’an, contemplation, and repentance. The most important thing therefore is to make the Niyyah (intention) for this. Make the Niyyah to be in I’tikaf from Ramadan 21 to the sighting of the moon of Shawwal. Do not make a Niyyah for 10 days, because if Ramadan that year is only 29 days, then you will have to break your I’tikaf for Eid and return to that very masjid in a state of fasting to complete that one day.
  2. Boundary: Check with the masjid authorities about the boundary of the masjid. This can differ from place to place. While in I’tikaf you must remain inside the boundary. Otherwise, your I’tikaf will break. The only exception is if you need to go outside the boundary to the toilet or to pick up food if there is nobody to deliver your food to you. You are not allowed to even attend Salah Janaza if it is being prayed outside the masjid boundary because that is a Fardh Kifaya and not Fardh Ayn.
  3. Supplies: Please bring your own supplies to the masjid. These may include a sleeping bag, personal medication, and other items you need. Remember that you are going to the masjid for a few days, not shifting residence. So, learn to do with less and lead a minimalist life.
  4. Behavior:
    1. I’tikaf is to connect with Allahﷻ. Not to connect with people. It is not a hangout or a networking opportunity. So, avoid all unnecessary talk, socializing, social media, phone calls, and browsing the net. Avoid all arguments, political discussions, and talk about the Dunya.
    2. Maximize Dhikr, Salah, reading Qur’an, contemplation, and repentance. If you get tired, sleep. In I’tikaf, that is also Ibaadah.
    3. Be extremely sensitive to other people’s comfort, ensuring that no action of yours disturbs them in their Ibaadah or rest. Do not read Qur’an aloud or listen to it without headphones.
    4. Eat less, sleep less, worship more. Make dua because as a guest of Allahﷻ in His house, you have a special right on Him. As one of the Salaf said, “Are you shy to ask from your Rabb who is shy to send you back empty handed?” Ask with sincerity and humility, focusing on the power of Allahﷻ and He will give from sources you can’t imagine. You are not only a guest of Allahﷻ while in I’tikaf but you are the representative of other Muslims. So, ask for yourself but also ask for all the Ummah of Rasoolullahﷺ. Beg Allahﷻ because He is the only one who likes those who beg of Him. Remember that there is nothing you can ask which Allahﷻ can’t give. So, ask.
    5. Do not use anything that does not belong to you. What you brought, belongs to you. What you didn’t bring does not belong to you. If you need to use anything, always seek permission first. Do not ask permission to use things that others may feel hesitant to refuse because of their friendship with you, but they don’t like giving them. For example, towels, toothpaste, personal Mus’haf (which your friend may have marked for his own reading), cap, shoes, food etc.
  5. Masjid: You are the guests of Allahﷻ, so behave like guests. Don’t abuse the facility by turning on all lights, heating, AC etc. Ask the Masjid Admin. if you need anything instead of switching things on and off.
    1. Use water very carefully and frugally. The taps are not connected to the clouds. Rasoolullahﷺ told us to use water economically even if we were making Wudhu by the riverside.
    2. Offer to help in whatever is going on, including cleaning of bathrooms and consider it a privilege and honor if that is given to you. If that happens, ask Allahﷻ to clean your record as you clean the toilet of the masjid.
    3. If food is provided by the masjid, take what comes with thanks. Eat in silence and thank Allahﷻ. And never complain or ask for anything special. You are a guest and your host, Allahﷻ is providing you. That you are where you are i.e., in I’tikaf, is honor enough. Appreciate that and thank Allahﷻ and make no demands or complaints.
  6. Laylatul Qadr: The major purpose of I’tikaf is to search for Laylatul Qadr which Rasoolullahﷺ told us is in the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan. I’tikaf is the best way to find it because you are in the masjid for all the nights.

Narrated Abu Huraira (R) that Rasoolullah said, “Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven, and whoever stood for prayers in the night of Qadr out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”[Bukhari]

Narrated `Aisha Siddiqa (RA), that Rasoolullah said, “Search for the Night of Qadr in the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan.”[Bukhari]

Anas ibn Malik (R) reported that Rasoolullah said when the month of Ramadan began, “Verily, this month has presented itself to you. There is a night within it that is better than a thousand months. Whoever is deprived of it has been deprived of all good. None is deprived of its good but that he is truly deprived.” [Ibn Mājah]

Narrated `Aisha Siddiqa (RA), I asked, “Ya Rasoolullah, if I know which night is the Night of Qadr, what should I say (dua) during it?” Rasoolullah replied, “Say: O Allah, You are forgiving. You love to forgive, so forgive me.” [Tirmidhi]

I ask Allahﷻ to grant us the honor of I’tikaf, to help us to do what pleases Him. And to reward us in keeping with His Majesty and Grace.